3 Things I Learned in 6 Months of Motherhood

My baby just turned six months old yesterday. Six months old. It’s amazing to look back at all the changes we have both made in that short, yet incredibly long amount of time. When my daughter came home from the hospital, she was a tiny premature infant, left alone in the care of a woman who had never once changed a diaper. I poured through books and websites, searching for “how to wash/feed/care for a newborn.” Neither of us had any idea what we were doing.

Photo of 6 month old baby - Mommy Makeover Network

Today, we are pros. In six months, these are the things that I have learned.

1. They Are Just Little Humans

Seriously, relax. When my daughter came home, I was terrified to do anything wrong. Not sure of how much to hold her, I applied the instructions you give a child with a new hamster: “Don’t take them out of the cage too much in the beginning until they are used to their new surroundings.” But really, babies are like really tiny, emotional drunks. They scream and cry about nothing until they drink their bottle and go back to sleep. It’s as simple as that.

2. Nobody Knows Anything

It’s true. There are basic guidelines to caring for a baby, but honestly, nobody really knows what they’re doing. Some babies like to watch tv, some will go to sleep easily, some sleep through the night, while others don’t. It doesn’t matter. So long as your baby is healthy and seems happy, don’t worry about it. I had my “ah-ha” moment about raising kids after talking to my mother about “tummy time.” I was distraught about making sure my daughter was doing enough physical exercises, particularly a concept where you lay the baby on their stomach in order to strengthen their back muscles. I asked my mom how much of this she did with me and my siblings. She responded with a shrug, “I don’t know. You all just crawled eventually, I guess.” I never worried about it again.

3. Relax

It’s ok to be tired. There is a golden zone between the newborn and the infant. Newborn babies never sleep, they always cry, and your hormones are so out of control that it really doesn’t make a difference. Then there is a period of relative calm. Around three months, baby sleeps a good portion of the day, and you are able to have some time to yourself to work or do housework, or even (imagine!) sit down and watch some TV. And then teething happens. Nap time disappears. You feel yourself sliding back into the Twilight Zone of Orajel and Tylenol, gas drops and Gripe Water. But this is your second time into the trenches, so don’t let it get you down. Take some time to relax when you get the chance. Trust me, the laundry will wait.


This is Harder Than I Thought: Neck Rolls and Armpit Crud

My husband once told me a story about a woman who had become so obese, that it was impossible for her to clean her own body. One day the woman got extremely sick, but the doctors were at a loss as to what was the issue. After countless tests and examinations, the culprit was found: part of a roasted chicken had become lodged underneath one of the woman’s fat rolls, and had begun to decompose into her skin.

Babies are like obese people.

Dirty Baby Arm Rolls - Mommy Makeover Network

 

Even a relatively slender baby has a ridiculous amount of skin rolls, which are constantly accumulating some seriously disgusting muck. It took me awhile to realize the main culprit in the problem: new babies have no neck. Because their heads basically sit directly on their shoulders, excess drool, milk, and spit up becomes trapped deep within the folds. I used to think a simple wipe down after feeding was enough to talk care of the issue—wrong! There is nothing so horrifying as having your baby tilt his or her head back far enough to stretch the skin tight, revealing a bathtub ring of encrusted crud. It’s really gross and often wraps all the way around to the back of the neck.

The same is true with armpits, fingers, and toes. Imagine the worst bellybutton lint your husband has ever had. Now imagine that snaking in between your baby’s fingers. Combine it with a little sweat and body grime underneath her tiny armpits, and you have a recipe that will undoubtedly make you feel like the world’s worst mother.

But don’t be too hard on yourself. The fact is, even with frequent bathing, babies are simply adorable little grime monsters! All you can do is be aware of the “high traffic” areas and check frequently for build up. Thankfully, wipes are always on hand for little spot checks and sponge baths between major cleanings to keep your secret safe. No one will ever know that your little angel is really a moss-covered swamp monster from the mouth of the Mississippi.

 

 

This is the sixth in a series of posts offering a candid first-person depiction of motherhood in all its wonderful/horrible glory. Check out the introduction to the “Harder Than I Thought” series and browse the archives for previous posts.


This is Harder Than I Thought: How Motherhood Turned Me into Hunter S. Thompson

I am Hunter S. Thompson - Mommy Makeover Network Mommy BlogPerusing my Netflix options the other night, I came across a cult classic, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. I’ve always loved this movie, and all of Hunter S. Thompson’s works for that matter. In fact, it was stories like his that peaked my interest in the “glamorous” journalist’s lifestyle in the first place.

As a budding college journalist, I imagined my life at this point would involve exotic assignments, wild nights, and adventure. Now a new mom struggling with the reality of working from home and caring for an infant, I started getting a little bit sad that this life would probably never happen for me. I worried about making it all work, afraid that I would never be able to turn in assignments now that I’m hindered by so many distractions. Was my career over before it began?

The movie began to wind down as thoughts like these swirled around my head, leaving me a little disheartened about the future. Suddenly, the camera panned backwards. The screen showed Johnny Depp, lounging in his flooded hotel room surrounded by the aftermath of drug-induced ravings. Then, as if by some miracle, he got up, sat down in front of his typewriter, and began to write. It didn’t matter that he was ankle deep in the flooded mess of a ransacked hotel room. He was not distracted by his thigh-high waders and rubber dinosaur tail. He ignored the human excrement and crusted like mustard on the wall. He simply lit his perpetual cigarette and began to compose those enduring words that would be read by millions.

“I can do this,” I thought.

Then a greater realization dawned on me, I AM Hunter S. Thompson in Fear and Loathing. There was no need for psychoactive drugs and seedy Vegas hotels; living with an infant was like a mainstream induction into the drug culture itself. I realized that my life is really not so different after all, and I was, in fact, living in some parallel reality. Let Johnny and Benicio show you what I mean (warning: videos NSFW):

1. My house on most mornings looks pretty similar to Thompson’s hotel room.

2. The experience of interacting at obligatory children’s parties isn’t completely unlike this.

3. It seems like puke and car rides always go hand and hand.

4. And finally, anyone who has attempted to wash a screaming two-month-old has no fear of a raving Benicio Del Toro in a bathtub.

 

 

This is the fourth in a series of posts offering a candid first-person depiction of motherhood in all its wonderful/horrible glory. Check out the introduction to the “Harder Than I Thought” series and browse the archives for previous posts.


This is Harder Than I Thought: Going Back to Work aka Can a Mommy Get a Break?

Going back to work is one of the most challenging decisions a mom can make, both financially and emotionally.

Pre-baby break from work vs. Post-baby break from work

During the first few weeks alone with my newborn, I longed for the days when I went to work every morning, showered and dressed, and sat at a calm desk surrounded by fellow adults. “Hello, Dave,” I could wave to a friend on the street, smiling over a cup of hot coffee I’d purchased on my break. “Break,” I’d murmur to myself dreamily, huddled in the bathroom at home, the place of sanctuary mothers around the globe cling to for a few moments of peace and quiet. There are no breaks as a new mom; lunch is an afterthought as you use the precious moments your baby sleeps to accomplish some housework or get some sleep of your own.

Thankfully, after a few weeks, things started to get better. The baby started to sleep for longer periods and cry less, leaving more time to relax and get through the day. As the prospect of going back to work began to loom nearer, the reality of becoming a working mom hit me hard. How did I feel about putting my child in daycare? Could I really trust a stranger to care for my child? Could I afford to hire a full-time nanny? Would I be able to handle balancing work and still have the energy to spend with my baby at night?

Every woman’s answers to these questions are different. For me, the allure of the workplace is sweet. What a treat it would be to simply plug into a set of headphones and work interrupted for (gasp) several hours straight. I smile at the thought of having access to a pot of coffee I didn’t make myself and enjoying a full mug while it’s hot, instead of finding several half-sipped cups scattered around the house, forgotten as some other matter was attended to. However, the decision isn’t that simple. I used to think going back to work was a no-brainer. Stay-at-home mom? Pssh, not for me. But with circumstance, thoughts certainly change.

As my last weeks of full-time motherhood draw to a close, I’m still not sure what the right choice for me will be. But when I do finally resume my place in the workforce, like the millions of women before me, I’m sure I will manage to wear both hats with the style and confidence that goes along with the respected title of “working mom.”

This is the third of a series of posts offering a candid first-person depiction of motherhood in all its wonderful/horrible glory. Check out the introduction to the “Harder Than I Thought” series and part two, “This is Harder Than I Thought: Lactation or the Art of Milking One’s Self in Public.” 


This is Harder Than I Thought: Lactation or the Art of Milking One’s Self in Public

 

That Awkward Boobs Moment - Mommy Makeover NetworkLadies, love them or hate them, we all have boobs. For most of your life, these constant companions are merely aesthetic. We strap them down for workouts, we push them up for dates, but mostly we treat them like any other normal body part. Until the baby comes. While pregnancy boobs are delightful—your C cups swell to DDs as your husband looks on in awe and respect—post-baby breasts are the worst. When your milk comes in, I was informed, your breasts will need to be “expressed” every two hours or so to prevent them from becoming “engorged.”

Engorgement is incredibly painful. Your breasts become hard and stiff due to blocked ducts, and shooting pains begin to radiate across your chest. This is the reason milk cows line up to be milked every morning. Every moo is really a cry for help. I know this now. The only way to relieve the pain is to somehow get the trapped milk out and relieve the pressure.

You can do this one of three ways: by nursing, with a pump, or by hand. My first experience with engorgement happened on a city bus. My husband had forgotten to pick me up from an appointment before work, so I was forced to take public transport to get my car. Waiting at the stop in the hot sun, I started to feel an uncomfortable tingling in my chest. Once on the bus, the milk continued to “let down,” and pressure began to build, becoming increasingly painful. Shamelessly, I started to grope myself, ignoring the stares of my fellow passengers in an attempt to massage away the pain.

It didn’t help.

As the pain began to shoot deeper into my chest, my eyes started to water. The injustice of it all crashed down around me. I was a nice girl! I didn’t deserve to be the crazy lady squeezing her own boobs and crying on a public bus! After an eternity elapsed over the next five blocks, I reached my stop, and ran frantically into the bathroom of the restaurant where my husband works. I took a moment to look at my face in the mirror, to contemplate the need for what had to be done. What I saw was that it definitely had to be done. I took off my shirt. I removed my bra. I began to milk myself in the sink of a public restroom. And I was unashamed.

 

This is the second of a series of posts offering a candid first-person depiction of motherhood in all its wonderful/horrible glory. Check out the introduction to the “Harder Than I Thought” series. And keep your eyes peeled for Part 3.


Motherhood: This Is Harder Than I Thought

This is basically a before and after photo.

I have always been a dog person.

Like dog people, there are also “cat people,” “baby people,” etc. I was never a baby person; babies cried all the time, they were ticking puke bombs, and the fresh ones kind of looked like dehydrated rats. Ok, I wasn’t quite that cynical, but I was just fine looking at your adorable bundle from a safe distance.

And then I got pregnant.

Bringing home my new baby was like the first day of high school, defending a dissertation, and starting a new job, all rolled into one. “Can I handle it?” “Have I done the research?” “Will the baby even like me?”

During my pregnancy, I never had time to take birthing or child care classes, and honestly, I really had no particular desire to do so. Up until B-Day, I worked six days a week at two jobs. Believe me, by the time my cherished day off rolled around, the last thing I wanted to do was sit on a birthing ball and watch three hours of ancient Lamaze videos. (Also, ew. The 70s were not kind.)

Pictured: Women Not Working Two Jobs

So when my water broke just before a shift one night, I calmly excused myself to the manager, saying, “I am so sorry, but I think I’m about to go into labor. I should probably leave for the hospital now.” And off I was on my journey to motherhood.

Therefore, all of my knowledge and observations are from on-the-job experience.

What I’ve learned is this: Being a mom is hard. Being a mom is gross. Being a mom can produce some of the most rewarding and emotional moments you will ever experience in a lifetime. But most of all, being a mom takes a sense of humor. This series is a look into my life as a new mommy, and a collection of the things I’ve learned on my ongoing odyssey of parenthood.

 

This is the first of a series of posts offering a candid first-person depiction of motherhood in all its wonderful/horrible glory. Check out part two, “This is Harder Than I Thought: Lactation or the Art of Milking One’s Self in Public.” 


3 Questions You Should Never Ask A New Mom

Lioness and Cub

Lioness not eating her cub....yet.

Being a new mom is one of the toughest jobs around. Sleepless nights, crashing hormones, and frayed nerves can quickly take their toll on even the hardiest of women. Unfortunately, when it comes to motherhood, everyone has their own opinion as to how it should be going, and they are never afraid to share it. Here is a list of the top three questions to avoid when talking to a new mom.

1. Are you breastfeeding?

Just the word “breastfeeding” can quickly become a source of stress or embarrassment to a new mother. We all know the adage, “Breast is Best,” but how a woman decides to feed her child is a personal choice, and one in which she sometimes has no control. Some women struggle with breastfeeding, so making remarks such as, “If you love your baby you will breastfeed her,” “Breastfed babies are smarter,” and “If you feed your baby formula, she will be fat later in life,” will only add to the anxiety. After all, it really is none of your business anyway.

2. When are you going back to work?

In the first few weeks of motherhood, a mom is only concerned about when her next meal/shower/nap will be. The last thing she wants to do is think ahead to a prospect of juggling even more stress into her already overwhelming life. So give these ladies a break, and let them enjoy a little time off. And be grateful you aren’t the one up at 3 a.m. changing diapers or soothing a screaming infant.

3. Are you enjoying being a mom?

Questions like this amaze me. One that often goes along with this is, “Are your mothering instincts coming in yet?” I’m not sure what the expected answer is: “No, it’s miserable, I wish I could just eat my infant like a lion and be done with it.” Of course, I enjoy it! Of course, it’s also miserable! No matter how much you love your child, no first-time mom can ever be prepared for the challenges or the emotional rollercoaster bringing your baby home will invoke. So a simple, “How are you?” will do just fine, especially if you are just a casual acquaintance. After all, you might not like what you hear if you ask a sleep-deprived, stressed-out mother an intimate question.


Preparing for Baby: 4 Items Your Nursery Needs

With all of the advice from your friends, family, and online message boards, it can be hard figure out exactly the best way to prepare for your new addition. Marketing campaigns tend to take advantage of the uncertainty that many new parents feel, but you might be surprised to know that you don’t need a lot of fancy equipment.

Of course, we all know that basics like diapers, onesies, bottles, and wipes are necessary. But, what about beyond the basics? Which products make life easier and which are a waste of money?

A quality diaper pail

You really want to put them somewhere out of sight and out of mind. Enough said.

A humidifier

No matter what time of year, those little nasal passages can benefit from easier breathing. And it may be just the thing that helps you both get better sleep at night.

A nursing pillow

Whatever brand you choose, this is likely to be your very best friend for the next year. Invest in a quality product and buy a couple of covers to swap out when they need to be washed.

A sling or baby carrier

Once again, style and fit are based on your personal preference. It may be helpful to wear a few in the store to see whic


Tips for Baby Bathtime

Bringing a new baby home can feel overwhelming at times. From keeping track of your little one’s feeding schedule to mastering the art of swaddling, there is a lot to remember, but the learning curve isn’t as steep as you might think. Bathtime, in particular, can be a breeze. Just follow these helpful tips.

It’s all in the temperature.

Babies aren’t able to regulate their own temperature very well early on. So, be sure that the bath you draw is warm and the room is comfortable. Soaping up and rinsing shouldn’t take too long. That’s why it is always a good idea to have a warm, fluffy towel waiting for you when bathtime is over.

Be gentle.

Babies aren’t doing much to get dirty. So, it doesn’t take much to get them clean. Use mild soap sparingly and wash the hands and diaper area well, taking care to avoid eyes and ears.

Rinse, dry, repeat.

After you are done washing, make sure that all of the suds have rinsed clear before wrapping your baby in a towel. Baby skin is very sensitive. So, it’s always best to avoid fragrances, lotions, and oils, unless your doctor recommends it.

Many doctors will advise parents to delay the first bath until after the umbilical cord has healed and fallen off. If you have any questions about when to start bathing your baby, discuss them with your pediatrician. Always stay with your baby throughout the bath and never go farther than an arm’s length away.

If you keep these tips in mind, you’re sure to have an enjoyable bathtime for you and your baby.


Bonding with Your Baby in the Womb


After discovering that you’re pregnant, it can be easy to feel anxious about bonding with your baby. Sooner is always better than later, and the good news is that you don’t have to wait until your baby is born to begin the process.

After the 23rd week, your baby is developed enough to hear and respond to outside noises. Many researchers believe that they can actually respond to the sound of your voice even earlier than that. Talk to them often and be mindful of noises that might be too loud for your baby. Many prenatal yoga classes incorporate humming, and some moms-to-be who have participated in these classes have noted that humming has a soothing effect on their babies after being born as a result.

In addition to your baby responding to your voice, they can also respond to music. Play calming music for your baby. Classical tunes are always a good choice. It’s not necessary, but if you want to, you can even put headphones around your baby bump. Just be sure to keep the volume low since amniotic fluid can amplify the music.

Babies also react to your hormones. Research has shown that mothers with stressful pregnancies and anxious personalities are often linked to babies with emotional difficulties. While the direct cause-and-effect link is still a mystery, many experts suspect that it has something to do with the stress hormones that cross the placenta. Stay calm and surround yourself with positive people and positive influences throughout your pregnancy.

Spend time thinking about your baby, talking to him, singing to her, and putting healthy food in your body for both of you. By reducing stress and focusing on the positive aspects of your pregnancy and family, you will also likely have a more enjoyable pregnancy.

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